A closer look at the Steelers

Every Tuesday we’ll take a closer look at the Ravens’ next opponent. This week it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Record: (6-2, 0-1, 1st AFC North)

Wins: vs. Seattle, @ Indianapolis, vs. Tennessee, vs. Jacksonville, @ Arizona, vs. New England

Losses: @ Baltimore, @ Houston

Offense: fifth in NFL, second in AFC

Defense: fifth in NFL, fifth in AFC

Synopsis thus far: Everyone in Baltimore - and Pittsburgh, for that matter - remembers what happened in Week 1, when the Ravens demolished the Steelers in one of the most lopsided contests in this rivalry’s history. Since then, however, Pittsburgh has won six of seven and looks to be hitting its stride at the right time. Up until last Sunday, some skeptics weren’t sold on the Steelers yet, who had managed to pick up wins on only the bottom feeders of the league. That changed two days ago, though, as Ben Roethlisberger led his team to a win over Tom Brady and the Patriots. With revenge on its mind this weekend, Pittsburgh will look to keep a four-game winning streak alive and with the Ravens looking less than perfect as of late, it’s shaping up to be another classic installment in one of the league’s most fiercest rivalries.

Where they’re strong: Similar to Baltimore, Pittsburgh’s bread and butter is its defense. And, like the Ravens, the Steelers have used the past few years in the draft and free agency to bolster their offense. Yet while the Ravens seem to still be working out the kinks, the Steelers’ offense is already running like a well-oiled machine. Roethlisberger, already with two Super Bowl rings to his name, is having another solid season and has plenty of weapons to throw the ball to, led by receiver Mike Wallace. Meanwhile, that defense is as good as it’s ever been. The Ravens caught a break when news broke that linebackers James Harrison and Lamar Woodley wouldn’t play Sunday, but there are still playmakers in that unit, along with a secondary that is tops in the league in passing yards allowed.

* Strangely enough, while Pittsburgh’s defense is among the top five in the league, it’s actually the worst, statistically speaking, in its division. Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland all rank ahead of the Steelers in total yards allowed, despite Pittsburgh sitting atop the division at 6-2.

Where they’re weak: For the second straight season, the Steelers have some questions along their offensive line and the running game. Pittsburgh ranks 14th in the league in rushing, totaling 115.4 yards per game and issues keeping Big Ben in the pocket are constantly swirling. Also, if Baltimore can take a lead or close deficit into the fourth quarter, that’s where the Steelers appear to struggle, at least on offense. In the passing game, Roethlisberger’s numbers take a significant dip in the final 15 minutes. While he averages a quarterback rating of more than 100 in quarters one through three, the fourth quarter sees his rating fall to 69.1. His completion percentage falls to 55.9 percent and he has managed just one fourth quarter passing touchdown.

Overall advantage: These games are hyped up all week and still turn out to be better than people think. Despite a half-game difference in the standings, it feels like these two teams are worlds apart. Pittsburgh is riding high, while the Ravens are eeking out wins over last-place teams. But, Baltimore holds that Week 1 beatdown in its back pocket. Will Pittsburgh have its revenge? I think so.